It’s easy to assume that the holidays are high season for brick-and-mortar businesses. After all, there are so many presents to buy and meals to prepare. Where else are consumers going to get everything they need (without waiting for delivery)?
The assumption about high-season is true…to an extent.
What shoppers don’t always think about is the looming threat of shoplifters. Big crowds, busy retail workers, and preoccupied buyers are the perfect combination for retail theft.
Minnesota Business Owners and Law Enforcement on the Lookout
The holidays are the worst time of the year for shoplifting. In fact, many businesses report worse losses due to shoplifting during the holidays than at any other time of year. This is why Minnesota business owners and law enforcement alike are increasing store security and their suspicions.
As a result, forgetting an item on the bottom of your cart can go from mistake to misdemeanor in the blink of an eye. Your best bet is to know the law (and your rights) when it comes to Minnesota shoplifting charges.
Shoplifting Laws in MN
There are a variety of acts considered shoplifting. From the standard of slipping something into your pocket to price tag switching to changing packaging, there’s more to shoplifting than simply grabbing a small item and walking out of the store.
Criminal History Equals Higher Penalties
In Minnesota, shoplifting can result in charges from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the amount stolen and the offender’s criminal history.
If you have any criminal record at all — even for something completely unrelated to theft — you’re more likely to receive a higher penalty. That is unless you have experienced legal representation.
Shoplifting Charges Can Be Aggregated
Furthermore, if you are charged with multiple counts of shoplifting over the course of a six-month period, those charges are “aggregated”. That means the cost of the items you shoplift are added together and treated as a single charge, instead of two separate ones.
Depending on the number of charges and the total value of the items you have been accused of stealing, it can be the difference between a misdemeanor charge and facing a felony.
In fact, many stores will wait to press charges for shoplifting if they believe someone is a serial shoplifter. This allows them to document multiple incidents of shoplifting and increase the penalty against the accused.
Charges for Receiving Stolen Property
Even if you weren’t the one shoplifting, you can still be charged with receiving stolen property. This charge can be made when you “receive, possess, transfer, buy, or conceal” stolen property and “have reason to know” the property was stolen.
For example, if you know your cousin has a tendency to shoplift and you receive an unusually nice present from them, you can potentially be charged with receiving stolen property.
While this charge is more difficult to prove, better safe than sorry this holiday season. Be wary of this type of exchange.
Minnesota Shoplifting Consequences
There are several tiers of shoplifting charges. Remember, with aggregated charges, multiple shoplifting incidents over the course of six months can (and likely will be) consolidated into a single charge in order to garner maximum penalties.
Furthermore, any of these charges can be aggravated by the possession of shoplifting tools like mag-stripe removers and past convictions of shoplifting.
Here is the breakout of penalties by the total value of the property stolen:
- Under $500: Shoplifting less than $500 is considered a misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $1000 or up to 90 days in jail.
- $500 to $1000: Shoplifting between $500 and $1000 is a gross misdemeanor, with an increased sentence of up to a year and a fine up to $3000.
- $1000 to $5000: If you’re accused of shoplifting more than $1000 worth of products, you are officially charged with a felony. This is punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 or five years in prison.
- $5000 to $35,000: Again, a felony, with a sentence of up to ten years and a potential fine of up to $20,000.
- More than $35,000: The final level of shoplifting charges, for more than $35,000 you can receive a fine up to $100,000 and 20 years in prison.
Shoplifting charges during the holidays are the last thing you want to deal with — especially when it’s a case of accidental theft. If you’ve been charged with shoplifting here in the state of Minnesota this year, don’t face it alone.
Reach out to an experienced Minnesota retail theft defense attorney and learn your next best steps to protect and prepare yourself to handle them.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).